Shop, Mail, and Stamp: A Busy Mom’s Guide to Making the Season Merry

aissa treeSometimes you read blogs from experts to learn from their experience, wisdom, and winning strategies for surviving motherhood. This is not one of those blogs. I am writing this blog about strategies for holiday shopping and mailing as a confessional; a cry for help. My immediate and extended family live 2,000 miles away, so I have great motivation to improve this character flaw that I will call postal procrastination. Today I share some things I’ve come up with to make my holidays merrier and more organized. You’re welcome.

Plan your giving strategy
Are you crafty? Do you love to shop downtown? One of those people who line up at 5:00 a.m. on Black Friday? Prefer to shop online? Figure out what gives you joy in giving and own it. I’ve made peace with the fact that I am not crafty and December is not the time to start. Whatever your giving style, do it in a way that also gives you joy and reduce the stress that is all too present this time of year. Organize a Black Friday blitz with your besties, cozy up to your laptop for Cyber Monday deals, or do what I’m planning to do and take a rare afternoon off to shop local in downtown Iowa City. Not only will I get to support local business, but I’ll also give myself the gift of time alone while I shop for others. I’ll even stop at my favorite coffee shop and get the bonus gift of finishing an entire hot beverage at once. Happy Holidays to me! {By the way, if you are interested in a great evening of shopping local in downtown Iowa City, join us for our Holiday Shop Crawl on December 4th!  If you haven’t gotten a ticket yet, click here for details.}

Make your list…and check it twice (you knew that was coming)!
In a perfect world, we’d all be Oprah and everyone would get their favorite things. If you’re like me, however, you need to make a realistic list and a budget. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the consumer frenzy. Don’t. There’s nothing jolly about buying things you cannot afford! Consider drawing names with extended family members or buying one gift per family. I have ten nieces and nephews. Buying ten gifts is not realistic. Instead, my sisters and I draw names for all the kids and for each other. The same goes for your greeting card mailing. Do what you can afford, including postage. Carefully styled holiday photo shoots and custom-designed cards or boxed greetings with handwritten messages–the sentiment is the same.

Get your shi…pping dates together
The shopping and lists won’t matter if the presents sit on your kitchen counter until after the New Year because you couldn’t sprint to the finish and get them in the mail. The USPS as well as other shipping services all have shipping deadlines to get your packages delivered on time. Hanukkah begins Tuesday evening, December 16th and Christmas just a few weeks later. Check the priority date for your desired destination and holiday, count backward, and make a deadline. Circle it in red on your calendar.

Gather supplies
Chances are you’ll need to mail at least a few things this holiday season. One of the primary barriers to getting packages mailed on time is gathering the stuff it takes to get it in the mail. Fortunately, the US Postal Service makes it nearly impossible to use this excuse. I started by ordering a free variety pack of priority mail boxes—with holiday designs!—and it arrived on my doorstep within days. For free. You can also buy your holiday-themed stamps online. This is a great option if you’re a new mom who doesn’t want to brave the Midwestern weather with your little one or if your work schedule makes it impossible to get to the post office.

Turn the mundane into merry
If you’re like me, you spend the wee hours of the morning and night stuffing and addressing holiday cards while your partner and kiddos sleep. Not very merry, right? How about turning the mundane into merry by hosting an evening “Stamp and Sip” party? Invite a small group of girlfriends (as many as you have chairs around your kitchen table), everyone brings their cards, stamps, address books, and a bottle of something festive. You can even provide nice quality pens and munchies. You’re going to be up anyway, so why not share the joy and some much-needed time with your girlfriends? Suddenly, a solitary task is a reason to celebrate.

What are your tips for getting organized this holiday season? Share them here!

Sherri is a transplant from Oregon who came to be a Hawkeye in 2006 and stayed for the sweet corn...and for the Iowa boy she met along the way! She and her husband (Kyle) have a 9 year-old daughter, Aissa. Sherri earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of Iowa and works for Ruffalo Noel Levitz as an Enrollment Marketing Consultant for colleges and universities. When she's not working, you can find her with her family, enjoying Iowa City and cheering on the Hawkeyes.


  1. If you shop downtown Nov. 29- Dec. 6 a percentage of sales of select items will be donated to United Way. I’d say that’s a win, win, win!

  2. The postal procrastination is a real thing-we can thank Harriett for that inherited gem 😉 with baby girl coming on the fourth I have to get my holiday gifts done in advance-so it’s been a good motivator, but my cards can’t come until after (so I can include a photo of her ;)) I love the idea of a stamp and sip!!

  3. I keep in mind how much we generally spend on each important person. Going through a store of any kind, if I see something that makes me think “Oh! Jen would like that!” and it’s within range, I get it.

    I received a new catalog today, “Solutions”. On the cover was a pair of remote control bumper cars. Gosh! Alex’s birthday is in March. Right now, the toy was on sale. I quickly checked the Smile.Amazon site and found the same toy selling at twice the price. I returned to Solutions (it seems it’s part of ordered it, and since I have to pay shipping (I used ‘ and saved $5.98 on the 9.00 shipping) I had it sent directly to her house with the notation ‘4 march 24’ next to her name. Now THAT’S the way to procure goodies! Please always use when you shop and select Emmitsburg Primary Osteopathic Care Center as your favorite charity, and they will send a donation! Shop, Save, and Give! the way to go!


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